Nubia is located in today's southern Egypt and northern Sudan. This land has one of the harshest climates in the world. The temperatures are high throughout most of the year, and rainfall is infrequent. The banks of the Nile are narrow in much of Nubia, making farming difficult. Yet, in antiquity, Nubia was a land of great natural wealth, of gold mines, ebony, ivory and incense which was always prized by her neighbors.

Nubia is the homeland of Africa's earliest black culture with a history which can be traced from 3100 B.C. onward through Nubian monuments and artifacts, as well as written records from Egypt and Rome.

To the ancient Mediterranean world, the land south of Egypt was a territory of mystery and legend. Wealth and exotic products came from there. It was the home of the Ethiopians, whom Homer called blameless and stories about its great achievements endured to tantalize the modern world. This land, which now includes Nubia, is a land of enormous distances, and its exploration was long impeded by problems of transport and political unrest.

In the last hundred years, Nubia has slowly yielded its secrets, its vanished peoples, abandoned cities and lost kingdoms brought to light by the excavator and copyist of inscriptions.
This exhibit is a selection of objects recovered over twenty years ago by the Oriental Institute Nubian Expedition in the effort to rescue archaeology from the rising water behind the Aswan Dam.

The land of Nubia is a desert divided by the river Nile. For want of water and rich soil, most of Nubia has never been able to support a large population for long periods. However, some of Africa's greatest civilizations emerged here, centers of achievement whose existence was based on industry and trade, Because they did not write their own languages until very late in ancient times, we know these centers and their people largely through their archaeology and what the Egyptians and Greeks said about them.

• A-Group: 3800-3100 B.C.
• C-Group: 2300-1550 B.C.
• Kerma Culture: 2000-1559 B.C.
• Egyptian Domination: 1950-1100 B.C.
• Napatan Period 747-200 B.C.
• Meroitic Period 200 B.C.-A.D. 300
• X-Group (Ballana Period) A.D. 250-550
• Christian Period: A.D. 550-1400
   (All dates are approximate)

The earliest of the Nubian cultures (the A-Group and C-Group) were located in northern Nubia.

Until recently it was thought that A-Group people were semi-nomadic herdsmen. However, new research suggests that a line of kings 1ived in Qustul in northern Nubia as early as, or perhaps even earlier than, the first pharaohs of Egypt.

The people of these early cultures buried their dead in stone-lined pit graves, accompanied by pottery and cosmetic articles.

At this time, Nubia was known to the Egyptians as "Ta Sety," the "Land of the Bow," because of the fame of Nubian archers.

By 1550 B.C. kings at Kerma were ruling Nubia. They were buried in huge round tombs, accompanied by hundreds of sacrificed retainers. People of the Kerma culture were accomplished metal workers, and they also made thin-walled pottery on a wheel. This was a time of increased contact between Egypt and "Kush," as Nubia was then called. Egypt dominated parts of Nubia from about 1950 to 1000 B.C. Forts, trading posts and Egyptian style temples were built in Kush, and the Nubian elite adopted the worship of Egyptian gods and even the Egyptian hieroglyphic writing system. The gold, ebony and ivory of Nubia contributed to the material wealth of Egypt, and many of the famed treasures of the Egyptian kings were made of products from Nubia.

By 800 B.C., Egypt had fragmented into rival states. In 747 B.C., the city of Thebes in southern Egypt was threatened by northerners, and the Egyptians called upon the Nubian king for protection. The Kushite king, Piye, marched north from his capital at Napata, rescued Thebes and reunified Egypt. For the next 100 years, Kushite kings ruled both Nubia and Egypt. This era was brought to a close by the invasion of Assyrian armies in 663 B.C., and the Nubian king fled south to his capital at Napata

By 200 B.C., the capital had shifted yet farther south to Meroe, where the kings continued to be buried in pyramid tombs and to build temples to Nubian and Egyptian gods in a hybrid Egyptian Roman-African style. Roman historians record the skirmishes and treaties which marked the relation ship of Roman Egypt and Nubia. By A.D. 250 the culture of Nubia changed radically, perhaps due to the immigration of new peoples into the Nile Valley.

Pyramid tombs were replaced by the great tumulus burials of the kings of Ballana. These kings were laid to rest with sacrificed retainers, horses, camels, and donkeys. In the 7th century, Nubia was converted to Christianity. The skill of Nubian archers forestalled the conversion of Nubia to Islam until A.D. 1400.
In the 1960's, a dam was constructed at Aswan, Egypt. It created a 300-mile-long lake which permanently flooded ancient temples and tombs were well as hundreds of modern villages in Nubia. While the dam was under construction, hundreds of archaeologists worked in Egypt and Sudan to excavate as many ancient sites as possible. The Oriental Institute worked in Nubia from 1960 68. Today, the 5000 Nubian objects in the collection of The Oriental Institute Museum and thousands of objects in other museums are our sole resource for recovering the rich civilization of northern Nubia, for the sites themselves are lie beneath the waters of Lake Nasser. In contrast, expeditions from many countries are working in southern Nubia.

The modern inhabitants of southern Egypt and Sudan still refer to themselves as Nubians. They speak the Nubian language as well as Arabic. Thousands of Nubians from the north were forced to relocate from their endangered homelands to be resettled in Egypt and Sudan.

Precious Metals and Stones:
Egyptian interests in Nubia were always driven by economics. The one factor that chiefly characterized Egypt's relationship with Nubia through most of their history was exploitation.

Nubia's most important resource for Egypt was precious metal, including gold and electrum.

The gold mines of Nubia were located in certain valleys and mountains on either side of the Nile River, although the most important mining center was located in the Wadi Allaqi.

That valley extended eastward into the mountains near Qubban (about 107 km. south of Elephantine).

Nubia was also an important source of valuable hard stone and copper, both of which were necessary for Egypt's monumental building projects.

Trading in African Goods:
Especially important for Egypt was that Nubia was also a corridor to central Africa and a point for the trans-shipment of exotic goods from that region, including: frankincense, myrrh, "green gold," ivory, ebony and other exotic woods, precious oils, resins and gums, panther and leopard skins, monkeys, dogs, giraffes, ostrich feathers and eggs, as well as pygmies (who became important to Egyptian religious rituals). In the Old Kingdom, the Egyptians regularly penetrated as far as the Second Cataract to barter for these products which were coming down through the upper Nile Valley (viz., the expeditions of Harkhuf, Hekayib, Mekhu and Sabni).

Nubia was also an important source of manpower and labor for the Egyptians. The Palermo Stone records that early in the Fourth Dynasty, King Snefru led a military campaign into Nubia reputedly to crush a "revolt" there (the Egyptians considered all enemies--whether foreign or domestic--as "rebels" against the natural order).

According to that text, he captured 200,000 head of cattle and 7,000 prisoners, all of whom were deported to Egypt as laborers on royal building projects. While some archaeologists argue that this campaign was limited to Lower Nubia, others note that the amount of 7,000 is rather high for a country that was fairly depopulated at the time.

If the number was not inflated as royal propaganda, then Snefru could have penetrated into Upper Nubia as far as the Land of Yam and made his conquests there.

Egyptian Activities:
By the Old Kingdom (if not earlier in the Second Dynasty), the Egyptians founded a settlement at Buhen which apparently was an important site for copper production. Later, Khufu opened diorite quarries to the west of Toshka and south of Buhen, while other quarrying expeditions were sent south above the Second Cataract. The Fourth Dynasty also saw the establishment of a regular messenger service between the First and Second Cataracts.

By the reign of Sahure in the early Fifth Dynasty, the Egyptians began trading with the Land of Punt, which was accessible only by sailing along the seacoast on the Red Sea. Expeditions to Punt began by sailing upriver to Coptos, then caravanning eastward through the Wadi Hammamat or the Wadi Gasus to the seacoast.

There the expeditions built ships and embarked on the sea voyage south. While the Egyptians did not penetrate Punt eastward from the Nile in Upper Nubia, apparently some Puntite goods and pygmies were trans-shipped to Egypt via a circuitous overland route through Nubia.

Despite that Buhen was abandoned in the Fifth Dynasty and the diorite quarries near Toshka were closed, Egypt maintained its hold over Nubia in the late Old Kingdom.

In the early Sixth Dynasty, Egyptians were recruiting Nubian mercenaries into the Egyptian army.

Weni recounts that he included five different Nubian peoples when he assembled the great army of King Pepi I for the military campaign to Canaan.

He also led a major quarrying expedition to Ibhat southeast of the Second Cataract, and he built giant barges in Wawat, for which, he says, the rulers of Wawat, Irtjet, Yam and Medja "dragged wood" (in token humiliation?).

Later he cut a series of channels through the First Cataract, after which King Merenre traveled to Elephantine in order to receive the homage of the Nubian leaders. Pepi II prepared an expedition to sail to punt in his reign, although it is uncertain that its preparations were completed.

Apparently, the governors of Elephantine at this time were responsible for royal affairs in Nubia. Harkhuf recounts four successive expeditions on which he served or directed to Upper Nubia and Yam in the reigns of Merenre and Pepi II. He was a pathfinder, and his orders were to discover routes through the country and to trade with its leaders.

While his earlier trips saw him traveling through Irtjet and Zatju along the river, in his later journeys, these territories had turned hostile to Egypt, forcing him to travel on desert tracts and through the western oases. On his return to Egypt, laden with goods, Harkhuf could only travel through Irtjet, Zatju, and Wawat with the added protection of forces of the friendly ruler of Yam.

The change in the disposition of these territories was probably spurred by the arrival of a new people who gradually overtook Upper and Lower Nubia at this time and settled those areas. These were the C-Group people who were hostile to Egypt, and ultimately, they may have conspired to force Egypt out of Nubia at the end of the Old Kingdom, when the Egyptian state began to fragment and fall into civil war.

Nubian Confederacy:
Evidence indicates (e.g., the account of Harkhuf) that at certain periods in the reigns of Merenre and Pepi II, the Upper Nubian chiefdoms of Irtjett and Zatju, as well as Wawat in Lower Nubia, united together under a single ruler. At some point, this C-Group union might even have included the Early Kerma culture, which was distantly related to the C-Group. Evidently, Yam stayed independent of this confederacy. The purpose of the union, undoubtedly, was to resist Egyptian penetration and colonization of Nubia. For that reason, the Egyptians led by Hekayib, Governor of Elephantine, launched a military campaign to suppress the C-Group, splitting Wawat from the confederacy and helping to stabilize Egyptian control of the region. However, the Egyptians were not able to pacify Nubia entirely, despite several military campaigns in the Sixth Dynasty. Nubia remained restive for the remainder of the Old Kingdom. So, e.g., Sabni, Governor of Elephantine, recounts that he had to journey quickly to Wawat with an army to recover the body of his father, the previous governor, who had been killed on a trading mission.

Geographical Limits:

The land of ancient Nubia was bounded on the north by the First Cataract of the Nile River-- located just south of Elephantine--and on the far south by the Sixth Cataract--located north of modern Khartum. In certain periods, Nubia consisted of various ethnic tribal groups or chiefdoms, while in other periods, it was governed by larger and more politically complex kingdoms. Nubia was the country that bordered ancient Egypt on the south and through much of its history was politically dominated by the Egyptian state. However, in those periods from the First Dynasty onward (ca. 3050 BC), whenever Egypt was unable to maintain her presence in Nubia (e.g., because of her own internal difficulties), the various Nubian cultures flourished and enjoyed their political and economic independence, often formulating kingdoms of great dynamism that were competitive with the Egyptian state.

Political Frontiers:
In the Middle Kingdom, Egypt's southernmost border was fixed at Semna, located south of the Second Cataract in an area of narrow gorges and rocky outcroppings, known in Arabic as the Batn el- Hajjar, the "Belly of Stones" (about 68 km. south of the modern Egyptian-Sudanese border). Later in the New Kingdom, Egypt extended her southern border up to the Fourth Cataract, although she exercised military authority further upriver, as far as modern Kurgus (south of Abu Hamed). The traditional ancient Egyptian name for Nubia was Ta- Seti, "Land of the Bow" (as in "bow and arrow"). Indeed, the Egyptians gave that same name to their southernmost nome which bordered on Nubia, either because it was adjacent to that country, or else because that portion of southern Upper Egypt was originally part of an earlier kingdom of Nubia with the same name, and which would have existed before the unification of Egypt.

The Divisions of Nubia

For purposes of understanding history and geography, Nubia is divided into two great regions, Lower Nubia and Upper Nubia . Lower Nubia is the northern region extending nearly 400 km. from the First Cataract to the area around Semna and the Second Cataract. Today, it corresponds to the area of southern Egypt and the northern Sudan . Upper Nubia , which is south of Lower Nubia , extends upriver along the Nile to the Sixth Cataract and Khartum. It corresponds to what is today the central Sudan . The Nile River , flowing through this region, is often termed, the Middle Nile.

The Nile flows from south to north, i.e. from the Ethiopian Highlands and modern Uganda to the Mediterranean Sea. However, the geography of Upper Nubia is dominated by a giant bend of the river between the Fifth and Fourth Cataracts, in which the Nile actually turns to the southwest for about 270 km. before turning northward again in its passage to the sea. The area where it flows northward out of the bend and through to the Third Cataract is called the Dongola Reach, named after the Sudanese town of Dongola which dominates this part of the river. The great bend itself can be called the Dongola-Abu Hamed Bend of the Nile. This area, in which the water might be thought of as reversing direction, was highly treacherous to ancient navigation because of the speed of the rushing river here and the many rocky protrusions extending for kilometers along the river bed; hence, this can be characterized as an area of often intense white water.


Archaeological Names vs. Political Names:
In the study of Nubian history and archaeology, specialists use two kinds of names to refer to the various ancient people and cultures they encounter; these are political names and archaeological names. Political names derive from ancient texts, and they reflect the actual names that the Egyptians, Greeks, or Nubians themselves gave to certain parts of Nubia or to the different Nubian peoples. Archaeological names are those names given to particular cultures or industries which are detectable by archaeology but for which there are no associated ancient names; thus, there is no way to know what names the people of these cultures gave themselves. Here the archaeologists provide these cultures with either arbitrary (and artificial) designations , e.g.: "A-Group, B-Group" and "X-Group," or they name them according to the archaeological sites in which they were first discovered or which became their main centers, e.g.: "Kerma Culture" (referring to the succession of Nubian cultures found at the city of Kerma). Sometimes, the archaeological and arbitrary designations are mixed, e.g., the X-Group can also be referred to as the "Ballana Culture," since a main site for this culture is the cemetery of Ballana. Rarely, a political/textual name might combine with an archaeological designation, e.g., Nubadae-people can now be identified with the X-Group. Similarly, it has been suggested (justifiably or not) that the C-Group might be those people which the Egyptians named the Tjemehu (i.e., Libyans of the central Sahara).

Egyptian Names of Nubia:
All of the lands south and southeast of Egypt (sometimes also including the northeast) the Egyptians called, Ta-netjer, "God's Land." Within this great region, the Egyptians located the different countries and people of Nubia. From the Old Kingdom onward, in addition to Ta-Seti, the Egyptians applied the name Ta- Nehesy as a general designation for Nubia (n.b., nehesy means, "Nubian;" Panehesy, "the Nubian" becomes a common personal name, developing into the Biblical name, Phineas).
At the same time, Egyptians gave the name Wawat specifically to Lower Nubia. This name derived from one of several Nubian chiefdoms which were located in this region during the late Old Kingdom. A generic designation of the desert nomads of Nubia was the term Iuntiu or Iuntiu-setiu, "Nubian tribesmen (lit.'bowmen')." The names which the Egyptians used to refer to the various parts of Nubia and its different peoples usually changed depending upon the era and the particular tribal group in a given area.
Elsewhere in the Old Kingdom, the names Irtjet, Zatju, and Kaau were used of particular people and areas of the country. While, previously, they were thought to be in Lower Nubia, David O'Connor has recently made a strong case for locating them in Upper Nubia. The Land of Yam, visited by Harkhuf, Governor of Elephantine, in the late Sixth Dynasty, was apparently located around the Fifth or Sixth Cataracts. The Land of Punt was a country located east of Upper Nubia and bordering on the Red Sea (i.e., extending from the highlands to the sea). Since the Old Kingdom, the Egyptians often enjoyed a productive relationship with a Nubian tribal people from the land of Medja, named the Medjay (called the "Pan-Grave People" by archaeologists). As fierce warriors, they were incorporated as mercenaries into the Egyptian army as early as the Sixth Dynasty. Later in the New Kingdom, they were employed as the police force in Egypt, and the word medjay became the ancient Egyptian term for "policeman."
From the Middle Kingdom onward, the Egyptians regularly used the name Kash to refer to the powerful independent kingdom based in Upper Nubia, first at Kerma (until that was destroyed by the Egyptians in the sixteenth century BC), thereafter at Napata , then Meroe (pronounced "meroway"). Kash is identified as the Land of Kush in the Holy Bible. Kush's political dependency was the territory of Sha'at (in the region of the Isle of Sai). Other names attested at this time (mostly in execration texts) are: Iryshek, Tua, Imana'a, and Ruket. In the eastern mountains were Awshek and Webet- sepat.

In the early Eighteenth Dynasty, the Egyptians also used the name Khenet-hennefer to refer to Kush, especially during the military campaigns of Ahmose and Tuthmosis I. It appears as a general designation of the area of Upper Nubia between the Second and Fourth Cataracts, and designates the region for which the city of Kerma was the center or capital. The name Irem was applied in the Eighteenth Dynasty to the people who apparently lived in the southern reach of the Dongola Bend (i.e., the old territory of Yam). Later in the dynasty, the name Karoy was applied to the vicinity of Napata.
In the Late Period and during the Kingdom of Meroe, the name, Island of Meroe, was given to the triangular stretch of land on the east bank of the Nile, south of the Fifth Cataract. This section, dominated by the city of Meroe, was bordered on the north by the Atbara River, on the west by the Nile, and on the south by the Blue Nile. The Island of Meroe was the heartland of Meroitic civilization and the political and cultural center of the Kingdom of Meroe from ca. 590 BC to AD 300.

. The Nubians are believed to be the first human race on earth, and most of their customs and traditions were adopted by the ancient Egyptians.
. To the Greeks, they were known as Ethiopians and Nubia as the land of Ponts, i.e; the land of gods.
. A Nubian has been always renowned for his sheer honesty. He is an artist by nature and his lucky number all through is seven. He holds the nine as a sacred object and wishes to stay on the Nile bank throughout his life.
. A Nubian often prefers to marry, in the first place one of his cousins. A Nubian wedding ceremony often lasts for 40 days, with a long series of rituals. According to traditions, the groom has to present several gifts, particularly garments for the bride, her mother and sisters.
. These presents are boarded on a camel, adorned with decorations colorful silk fabrics and jewelry. During the wedding ceremony the groom is well-dressed, holding a sword and a whip.
. The social status of a Nubian is judged by the wealth of land and waterwheels he owns, as well as his noble descent.
. Performance of prayers, for a Nubian, is evidence to his vividness and an object of pride to his tribe. It is further evidence that he is not a charlatan or a slave.
. A Nubian, who doesn't perform his prayers, is punishable by public disdain and banishment away from the tribe.
. A Nubian woman normally bears loads of jewelry, all over her body. Around the neck, she carries 2 lines of necklaces, topped by two lines of jewelry, bearing the Divine Name of Allah. On the forehead, there is a piece of jewelry showing a Quranic verse, with a large pair of earrings draggling from the top part of both ears, a second pair from the lower part a third in between. The ankle is adorned with a silver anklet and fingers with silver rings.
. A Nubian woman adorns herself also with tattoo, normally shaped like a mole on the cheek a crescent on the forehead or a line drawn from the lip down to the chin or by coloring the nether lip.
. The Nubian woman is known for her remarkable use of henna ad perfumes.
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